Anti-graft court failed to fast-track cases vs officials — World Bank

World Bank (WB)

THE COUNTRY’S anti-graft court has failed to fast-track trials against high-ranking state officials in the past four decades partly due to limitations of the Philippine Ombudsman, according to the World Bank.

In a report on government effectiveness and transparency released on Wednesday, the multilateral bank said special anti-corruption courts would fail without political commitment.

“Without such a commitment, the potential for improvements through purely technical approaches is marginal at best, leading to a gap between the beautiful laws on the books and the weak implementation on the ground,” the World Bank said.

Results on the ground have not materialized in the Philippines, it added.

The Philippines’ Sandiganbayan is the oldest specialized anti-corruption court in the world, the lender said, noting that it has been operating since 1979 without interruption.

The court was created to expedite corruption cases against high-ranking government officials. It exclusively handles corruption cases involving a sufficiently large amount of money.

The Office of the Ombudsman, where complaints are filed, brings cases to the Sandiganbayan after investigation.

“The main declared rationale in creating Sandiganbayan was to expedite anti-corruption cases,” the multilateral bank said. “They have struggled to meet that objective.”

It cited “substantial inefficiencies and delays in deciding anti-corruption cases, in part due to limitations at the Office of the Ombudsman.”

Justice institutions across the world should improve their performance in the fight against corruption both inside and outside their offices, it said.

“The global report highlights the importance of complimenting the traditional methods of dealing with corruption with advanced ones like GovTech and e-procurement to address corruption, even in the most challenging and fragile environments,” Ed Olowo-Okere, World Bank global director for governance, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it has no funding for so-called judges-at-large under its budget for next year. The Judiciary budget for next year, as proposed under the National Expenditure Program, removed funding for judges-at-large.

The 2020 national budget provided P126.47 million for 50 judges, but the budget item was not carried in its P43.54 billion allocation for 2021, according to Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon questioned the lack of funding, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

“I think we should make sure that… that these are not budget items that the judiciary should not plea for because this is a matter of right,” Mr. Drilon said during the hearing.

“They are entitled to this. Hindi naman tama yan because that is part of the fiscal autonomy outlined in our constitution that we would be violative of the constitution.”

The 1987 Constitution provided, under Section 10 of Article 8, that the salary of the Chief Justice, Associate Justices and judges of lower courts should be fixed and should not be decreased. — Beatrice M. Laforga and Charmaine A. Tadalan

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